There’s something I noticed since moving house from Massachusetts to Virginia- people are far, far more polite to me in Virginia as a wheelchair user.
I have used wheelchairs in MA before, while out and about, but it was very different. In MA, people were generally very rude! I didn’t notice how rude they truly were until I came down here. Up there, people stared- and I mean stared. Pretty much any disabled person out there will tell you, there are two different kinds of staring we get. The first kind of staring is kind of a catch-all for pitying/sympathetic/curious stares, which are mostly harmless, if still rather offensive. The second kind of staring encompasses the angry people- the ones who believe that you, as a young/alternative/poc/etc. person, should not be using the mobility aid you are currently using, because you are clearly faking, and should get the fuck out of your chair/drop your cane or crutches/throw out your walker.
The second kind of staring is down right insulting and, for me, rage-inducing. I’ve gotten plenty of it. I started out on a cane, which garners enough stares, seeing as I’m Black, punk, and young. I moved on to forearm crutches, which gathered even more stares, obv. Now, I primarily use a wheelchair as my mobility aid, and although it does mitigate my pain greatly (though I am still getting used to using it regularly), I used to get a lot of angry stares in MA- especially if I were in the same vicinity as an elderly person.
It’s so, so strange, but now that I’m in VA, people are nothing but polite and sweet and helpful to me. Everyone smiles and wishes me and Wah a good day. Strangers offer me the last basket so I don’t have to roll across the entire store to get one. They offer to grab something off a high shelf for me if they see me searching for something. There was even a slightly older man who offered to walk around the store with me, carrying my basket, to help me shop.
It’s bizarre. I’m not used to people being so helpful and kind, and I especially wasn’t expecting it in a place like Virginia. Color me pleasantly surprised.